Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A global problem at home

I'm in Scotland on my annual May trip to the Highlands but my thoughts are back in Bodrum. I've just read a disturbing report that homeless Syrians from Aleppo have been removed from Bodrum's streets because their presence is upsetting local tradesmen. What is the world coming to?  Just before I left Bodrum last week, Jake and I came across a Syrian family on the street behind our house. The tattoos on the womens' chins immediately identified their nationality but their Syrian plate car which they'd driven across the border confirmed it. The whole family of 6 and all that they owned were spending each night in the car. They asked for some money but I'd come out without my purse so I couldn't give them anything.  I felt guilty for the whole day and when we walked back that way in the evening, their car was there but no sign of the family.  The next morning I took them breakfast and asked them what they were going to do. They shrugged their shoulders. What can they do? Their home town has been bombed. They have no money and no chance of earning any and there are at least 2,000,000 more in the same awful position. No one wants them. Every day, 50, 100 and sometimes greater numbers are picked up in unsafe boats trying to cross the Aegean to Europe. There seems to be no solution to this massive humanitarian disaster happening on our doorstep. I am being hypocritical to criticise authorities for moving on these hopeless souls because I didn't offer them a place to stay, and I hate myself for not doing so. Giving them breakfast or a bit of ready cash just made me feel a bit better, it did nothing to help sort out their problem. What on earth is going to happen to these poor folk? 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Bodrum's Golden Retriever Man.

Bodrum has had its fair share of "characters" over the years.  Individuals who choose to follow a different lifestyle from the norm and good luck to them.  For the past three and a half years, Şenol Özbakan has been living in his Peugeot Minibus with his Golden Retrievers, Şesu 14, Tarçin 8, Ajda 4, Hürrem Sultan 5, Aslan 3 and Leydi 3.  A former merchant seaman, Şenol bought Şesu as a puppy in England and brought him back to Izmir on his ship. A few years later he rescued Tarçin from a rubbish bin where she'd been left for dead.  Ajda is their offspring. Hürrem Sultan and Aslan were also found on the streets and Leydi was about to be sent to the dog pound by her owner because she'd been stealing shoes.  She now fulfils her retriever instincts by carrying the shopping bags back from the grocers.  Unfortunately, Şenol's wife did not share his love of dogs and thus his 20 year marriage ended and he moved into a minibus. He never asks for money despite having no income apart from that sent by his family, but well-wishers donate enough to provide sacks of dog food. Until a couple of months ago, he had a permanent base in a car park, where he had planted flowers and generally made a pleasant home for himself but he was moved on and is now beside the football pitch, grateful for the tree that provides shade but without the space to lay out the dogs' blankets and without access to an electric point that he needs for his oxygen equipment that, with 11 daily medications, treats his heart condition.  The Municipality may not be very happy with his living conditions but the general population in Bodrum are very pleased to see him walking his 6 dogs down to the sea for their daily swim and many slip him 10 TL or so as he passes to help with his expenses.  He's become quite a local celebrity and has had his picture in several newspapers.  I asked how he trained his dogs to be so obedient, but he said that they educated themselves which reminded me as a terrier owner of the saying " A Golden Retriever is born half trained, a Terrier dies half trained".  Unable to leave his dogs anywhere or travel with them any distance, he will be missing his daughter's wedding in Izmir next month, which is a shame as 6 Golden Retriever attendants would have made a good follow-up story.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Sweet Williams

This post is for my mother, Maggie.  Two years ago, my father brought over a spice jar full of seeds collected from their small plot in Sturminster Newton.  I scattered them in our village garden and waited - and waited. Nothing much happened except for a few plants that grew an inch or two and then stopped and sat still, neither growing taller nor dying off.  I'd just about given up on them and was bemoaning my lack of green fingers when I had a lovely surprise.  We moved back to the village last week and were greeted with a patch of beautiful Sweet Williams.  Now that Dad is no longer with us and Mum yesterday signed on the dotted line to sell the Dorset house, it's up to me to collect the seeds and keep this dynasty of English flowers blooming in Turkey.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Gertrude Bell's footsteps

I'm often asked why I live in Turkey and I can only answer "kısmet' or fate. It wasn't a planned move and I had no reason to gravitate to the Eastern Mediterranean but when I look back over my teenage years, I can see the beginnings of an attraction that may have subconsciously led me to find my way to Western Turkey.  In my mid teens I was obsessed with Victorian lady travellers; Isabella Bird, Mary Kingsley, Freya Stark et al and oh how I wished myself into Rose Macaulay's novel, 'The Towers Of Trebizond'. The opening first line "'Take my camel dear' said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass" were just the words a young girl in the dull Midlands of the 1970s needed.  One of my heroines was almost too fantastic to be true - Gertrude Bell, after gaining a First in history from Oxford, was sent to Persia to stay with her uncle, a diplomat in Tehran. There she fell in love but her parents rejected her choice and her beau died soon after, so Gertrude threw herself into Near Eastern studies. Learning 7 languages and immersed in Near Eastern behaviour, she became the only female political officer in the British army and was instrumental in founding modern Iraq. A self-taught archaeologist she eventually founded the Baghdad Museum. She also found time to be a serious mountaineer.
From my later reading, I realise that, had I met her, I wouldn't have enjoyed her company as she was arrogant, intimidating and felt contempt for most women, not considering them worthy of suffrage, but she was the bee's knees to a 15 year old me.

So I'm really exited that Pat Yale is writing a blog about her journey following Gertrude Bell's travels in Turkey.  I'm hooked and can't wait for the trip to be collated into a book.


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Bodrum Market Surprises.

Just when I think there is nothing new to see at Bodrum market, I find another first - Sage "apples". According to my admittedly rather ancient guide to plants of the Aegean, these "fruits' are not fruit at all but "galls".  I await further information because I've drawn a blank on the internet.  I wasn't expecting them to taste very good but I can see why they are called apples in Turkish; a sweet/sour juicy mouthful with a hint of sage, not at all unpleasant.

My second surprise is not so pleasant.  I needed some celeriac for a supper party on Thursday night and could only see tiny ones. I asked how much they were and when I found out that a "mouthful" size one was 3 TL I protested.  Asking the stall holder how he could justify the high price, I was told that markets are always more expensive than shops.  Are they? When did that happen?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

First responders vying to be first .

Lots of confused tourists in Bodrum today trying to work out why there were so many motorbikes and good looking guys in high visibility jackets in the centre of Bodrum today.  I'm sure a lot of visitors got on the ferry back to are Kos none the wiser.  Those familiar with the number 112 would have understood  that they were something to do with emergency services and maybe realised that they were all paramedics. A relatively new concept in Turkey - first responders on motorbikes; able to get to accidents and emergencies before ambulances arrive.  The guys I photographed had university degrees in paramedics, a course that didn't exist in my day. 

Seventeen Turkish teams and one each from Britain, Hungary and Slovenia were racing in time trials that involved manoeuvring around traffic cones, driving through the busy Bodrum streets and practicing  CPR.  The winning team come back to Bodrum on a free holiday.

There's never a good time to fall ill or over but today was the day.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Reflections on Hydra

Our photography homework this week is "reflections". I've been going down to the port early to try and catch the sea at its stillest but wasn't very happy with any of my shots. I could hear Jak dismissing all my reflections of boats in oily water as 'boring and formulaic" as he did our shadow photos last session.  So I turned away from the sea and bingo! Shop windows are much more interesting. I'm happy with the outcome even though the shop keepers were a bit suspicious at my excessive interest in their wares.